“I am very glad you could make it,” says the Host.
It is nice to be made to feel welcome and at ease. I am not very good at feeling at ease. I have already had two pints of special strong ‘at ease’ beer before arriving, in order to increase my at easeness, which has sort of helped except that I am now sweating and a bit on the back foot after getting the wrong door on the way in.
“Here is somebody to meet,” says the Host. “This is the renowned journalist who repeatedly and tenaciously harried the Houses of Parliament with Freedom of Information requests, eventually forcing the authorities to concede details that led to the exposure of the expenses scandal, causing the biggest shake-up in the British political system for several decades and redefining the relationships between the Westminster establishment and the public.”
“Hullo, I – er – write a blog. About Norfolk,” I reply, after a bit of a pause.
A waiter refills my wine glass, which has emptied itself already.
“I travelled all the way from there to get here,” I add impressively, deciding that in the absence of any achievements whatsoever in my life, I will be ‘man who has made the most effort to attend.’ Another man joins in. It transpires that he has travelled from Glasgow. I shoo him away. Fortunately at this point the Host shushes everybody to make a short speech, and the lady from Durex says a few words about Durexes.
My glass has magically refilled itself, as a waitress approaches with weird-looking snacks. I take one and study it warily. Fortunately she then turns to offer one to plain-speaking celebrity food critic Jay Rayner, so I am able to wait to see whether he enjoys it or whether he spits it out onto the floor crying ‘yuk yuk this is terrible it is too salty and lacks a basic balance of flavours’ before I commit myself to mine, as my glass is refilled again and another man arrives to refill my glass.
After my glass is refilled again I do some networking with TV’s David Mitchell, which entails him standing at the other side of the room chatting to his friends whilst I lean on the bar getting my glass refilled and thinking ‘that is TV’s David Mitchell over there.’ But I am starting to think that it might be a good idea not to particularly speak to anybody else, especially after the mild criticisms that I have good-naturedly ventured about the comedic content of Private Eye magazine to somebody who, it transpires, writes Private Eye magazine. The barman and serving people are sympathetic to my nerves and refill my glass several times to help put me at my ease a bit more.
All too soon it is time to go, or it is time for me to go, anyway – which is almost the same thing but not quite. The lady from Durex gives me a big bulging bag with ‘DUREX’ written on the side in big letters. I give her a ‘do I need to take this and carry it outside and down the road and on the late train full of drunks?’ look. She gives me a ‘yes you need to take this and carry it outside and down the road and on the late train full of drunks’ smile.
I carry it awkwardly outside.
“Hahaha – you got enough in there, mate?” shout a crowd of youths. They are jealous that they do not move in my celebrity social circle.